Majestic peaks: Mountains of North Carolina and Ecuador
In this lesson, students analyze two photographs: one of the mountains of Ecuador and one of the mountains of Western North Carolina. Students then analyze the two photographs together to gain an understanding of the two regions' similarities and differences.
A lesson plan for grades 6–8 English Language Arts and Social Studies
In this lesson students will use photo analysis activities to analyze and discuss how the mountains of Western North Carolina compare and contrast with the mountain regions of Ecuador. This lesson is designed to be used with grade six, but may be adapted to higher elementary grades or even to seventh- and eighth-grade levels.
- develop visual literacy by learning to analyze photos.
- compare and contrast life in the mountain areas of Western North Carolina and life in Ecuador, South America.
- gain a better understanding of how terrain affects human and natural activities.
- learn how common factors such as geography have similar effects on humans and human activities around the globe, despite cultural and political differences.
Time required for lesson
One to one-and-a-half class periods (approximately 60 to 90 minutes)
- Images of Ecuador and images of North Carolina from LEARN NC’s multimedia collection
- Two copies of photo analysis worksheet for each student
- One copy of photo comparison worksheet for each student
- Computer with internet connection
- Multimedia projector (to project photos for comparing and contrasting)
- Optional: PowerPoint software (to facilitate showing images individually and together for comparison)
- Optional: Color copies of two photos as described in the lesson activities if a multimedia projector is not available
The activities in this lesson should be part of a larger study of South America.
Before the lesson:
- Prepare copies of the photo analysis worksheet (two copies for each student) and the photo comparison worksheet (one copy for each student).
- Download the necessary photos that accompany this lesson in order to project the images on a multimedia projector. If a multimedia projector is not available, have enough color copies for students to look at two different photos, one from Ecuador and one from North Carolina.
- Familiarize students with analysis of photographs through various levels of questioning. Teachers should read the professional articles on LEARN NC about photo analysis, visual literacy, and teaching with photos to become more familiar with this valuable teaching tool.
- Familiarize yourself and your students with Ecuador:
- Read about Ecuador using websites such as the CIA World Factbook, the website of the Embassy of Ecuador in Washington, DC, or other online sites. Discuss basic facts such as regions, climate, culture, and language groups of Ecuador.
- Locate Ecuador on a map. A good place to begin is by locating Ecuador on Google Earth and pinpointing locations in Ecuador such as Riobamba, Quito, and Otavalo. Ecuador’s coordinates are 0°13’55.09” N, 78° 15’58.81”W. Point out the various mountain chains located in Ecuador.
- Teachers should also read the captions to the photos of Ecuador used in this lesson:
- Thatched-roofed huts near Riobamba, Ecuador
- A tile-roofed stone hut amidst verdant vegetation
- Two thatched-roof huts on a farm in Ecuador
- Sheep in a pasture south of Riobamba, Ecuador
- Small farms in Otavalo, Ecuador
- Patchwork of agricultural plots on a hillside outside Riobamba, Ecuador
- Populated hillside in Quito, Ecuador
- Rolling hills south of Riobamba, Ecuador
- Panorama of rolling hills and agricultural fields
- You may also want to familiarize students with mountainous western North Carolina:
- Discuss basic facts such as the climate and culture of western North Carolina. You can find an overview of North Carolina’s geographic regions at the NCpedia website.
- Locate western North Carolina on a map. A good place to begin is by locating the region on Google Earth and pinpointing towns and cities such as Asheville and West Jefferson. Point out the various mountain chains located in western North Carolina. Wikipedia’s article on the geography of North Carolina provides a helpful overview.
- Teachers should also read the captions to the photos of western North Carolina used in this lesson:
- A mountain view in Maggie Valley, North Carolina
- A snowbow before a storm in Jefferson, North Carolina
- A view of Hot Springs, NC, from the Lover’s Leap Rock
- View from Mount Jefferson, North Carolina
- The lights of Asheville seen through trees
- View of Jefferson, North Carolina
- Fraser firs at Mount Mitchell State Park
- Provide each student with two copies of the photo analysis worksheet that accompanies this lesson and one copy of the photo comparison worksheet. One copy of the photo analysis work sheet will be used to analyze the photo of Ecuador, and the other will be used to analyze the photo of North Carolina. Questions on the photo comparison sheet will ask students to compare and contrast the two photos once they have studied both photos.
- Prep students for the lesson activity and the photo analysis process. Tap their prior knowledge by briefly and generally discussing mountains, mountain life, and the geography of Ecuador and North Carolina.
- Have you ever visited a mountain area?
- What plant and animal life did you see?
- What was the weather like?
- What types of human activity (farming, industry, etc.) were taking place?
- What were the houses like?
- Choose two pictures of mountainous regions from the multimedia collection, one from North Carolina, and the other from Ecuador. You may or may not choose to reveal which photo is of Ecuador and which is from North Carolina. A fun side activity is to poll the class and discuss which photo is from which location and why they think so using evidence from the photos and their own prior knowledge.
- Project one photo at a time for students to study and complete the analysis. You may find it easier to manipulate the photos by putting them on a PowerPoint slide or interactive whiteboard when projecting them to the class. Give students approximately 15 minutes to study and answer the analysis questions for one photograph and 15 minutes for the other.
- After about 30 minutes, project both pictures simultaneously to allow students to compare and contrast. Again, creating a PowerPoint slide with both photos may be the easiest option for projecting both photos at one time. Allow for approximately 10 minutes to make comparisons and contrasts.
- Discussion: Discussing the photos with students is tremendously important. Do not end the activity without allowing students to explain their answers. Use the students’ observations and written responses as a springboard for class discussion. Do not limit yourself by just having students give a verbal answer to the questions on the analysis sheet. Use their answers as stimuli for further questioning that is not on the sheet. Consistently encourage students to support their answers with evidence from the photos.
You, the teacher, are the best judge of your students’ learning levels and abilities. Make students aware on what and how they will be graded.
Assess student responses and adjust questioning and activities as needed. Students can be graded on completeness of work and participation during discussion. You may also gauge students’ level of thinking and understanding of photographs through the photo analysis activities and the ability of students to completely and thoughtfully answer questions on various levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
It is encouraged to have students use photo analysis activities several times throughout the year to help students create a “habit of learning” on what to look for when analyzing photographs and documents.
Learning rubrics can be developed through Rubistar.
- As stated in step three of the activities, you may opt to have students guess which photos are of North Carolina and which are of Ecuador. The activity may be further extended by incorporating photos from various other mountainous regions of the world, such as the Himalayas in Asia or the Alps in Europe. You may also choose photos of a different geographic region such as a coastal area or foothills region. With any of these optional extensions, encourage students to support their answers with evidence from the photos.
- As part of your introduction to this lesson, you may want to point out some interesting facts about the height of mountains in Ecuador and North Carolina. For instance, Mt. Chimborazo (a volcano in Ecuador) stands at over 20,000 feet while Mt. Mitchell, the tallest peak in North Carolina, is 6,684 feet. Ecuador’s mountains, part of the Andes, have several peaks above 16,000 feet!
Modifications and alternative assessments
- This activity may be modified to have students compare/contrast photos of totally different geographic regions such as the coast vs. the mountains.
- For students with certain learning disabilities, you may opt to accept verbal responses rather than written responses for the analysis of photographs. You may also want to give students the captions for the photos to help guide them in their understanding of what they are seeing. Having students support their ideas with evidence from the photos is still encouraged.
- You may opt for students to create a Venn Diagram to help them compare and contrast the photos.
- Google Earth (free download for basic edition)
- CIA World Factbook
- Geographic overview of Ecuador from Ecuador’s embassy website
- North Carolina’s Three Distinctive Regions from the Visit North Carolina website.
- Wikipedia article on the geography of North Carolina
- Rubric maker from Rubistar for Teachers
- North Carolina Essential Standards
- Social Studies (2010)
- 7.G.1 Understand how geography, demographic trends, and environmental conditions shape modern societies and regions. 7.G.1.1 Explain how environmental conditions and human response to those conditions influence modern societies and regions (e.g. natural barriers,...
- 7.G.2 Apply the tools of a geographer to understand modern societies and regions. 7.G.2.1 Construct maps, charts, and graphs to explain data about geographic phenomena (e.g. migration patterns and population and resource distribution patterns). 7.G.2.2 Use...
- 8.G.1 Understand the geographic factors that influenced North Carolina and the United States. 8.G.1.1 Explain how location and place have presented opportunities and challenges for the movement of people, goods, and ideas in North Carolina and the United States....
- Social Studies (2010)
North Carolina curriculum alignment
English Language Arts (2004)
- Goal 1: The learner will use language to express individual perspectives drawn from personal or related experience.
- Objective 1.02: Explore expressive materials that are read, heard, and viewed by:
- monitoring comprehension for understanding of what is read, heard, and/or viewed.
- analyzing the characteristics of expressive works.
- determining the effect of literary devices and/or strategies on the reader/viewer/listener.
- making connections between works, self and related topics.
- comparing and/or contrasting information.
- drawing inferences and/or conclusions.
- determining the main idea and/or significance of events.
- generating a learning log or journal.
- creating an artistic interpretation that connects self to the work.
- discussing books/media formally and informally.
- Objective 1.02: Explore expressive materials that are read, heard, and viewed by:
Social Studies (2003)
- Goal 1: The learner will use the five themes of geography and geographic tools to answer geographic questions and analyze geographic concepts.
- Objective 1.02: Generate, interpret, and manipulate information from tools such as maps, globes,charts, graphs, databases, and models to pose and answer questions about space and place, environment and society, and spatial dynamics and connections.
- Goal 2: The learner will assess the relationship between physical environment and cultural characteristics of selected societies and regions of South America and Europe.
- Objective 2.01: Identify key physical characteristics such as land forms, water forms, and climate,and evaluate their influence on the development of cultures in selected South American and European regions.
- Goal 3: The learner will analyze the impact of interactions between humans and their physical environments in South America and Europe.
- Objective 3.01: Identify ways in which people of selected areas in South America and Europe have used, altered, and adapted to their environments in order to meet their needs, and evaluate the impact of their actions on the development of cultures and regions.
- Goal 11: The learner will recognize the common characteristics of different cultures in South America and Europe.
- Objective 11.02: Examine the basic needs and wants of all human beings and assess the influence of factors such as environment, values and beliefs in creating different cultural responses.